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Memorial Day honored early at Sarasota National Cemetery

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Posted: Sunday, May 26, 2013 5:31 pm | Updated: 7:37 pm, Tue Aug 20, 2013.

SARASOTA - For those who have lost a loved one in the line of duty, every day is Memorial Day.

"Our country loves its heroes and its servicemen, and they come out and show it.  It doesn't make it better, it makes it different, and different is a good thing," said Kris Hager, who knows all too well about loss. His son, Staff Sergeant Josh Hager, was killed in Iraq six years ago.  "The hardest part about losing someone is the sense of aloneness and loss and I know I'm not, and the hearts that are out here are so big," said Hager.

A price often made easier though, by the kindness of total strangers.

"As much as I grieve there's so many people that don't have a real connection to the cost of what our men and women in service do, and when they meet me, or when I get to share the story, I get thanked more not just that Josh was a brave man, but that people feel connected, and this is proof that they do," said Hager.

And those that did come home from war say they're here to carry on the legacy of those who weren't so lucky.

"It's a day to remember people that didn't make it back, especially one of my beloved crew members Wayne Haggis," said Richard Rogala, who was held captive in North Korea for eleven months, after his ship, the U.S.S. Pueblo, was captured in 1968.

And there was a time, he says, when crowds would not have gathered to remember the fallen.

"It's a good feeling, its really a good feeling that people are starting to care about it, because going back to the late sixties, our country didn't care about a lot of us," said Rogala.

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